Three Things To Consider When Buying Vise Grips

Locking pliers (aka vise grips) give you the ability to securely grip nuts, bolts and other objects while at the same time freeing up your hands to complete your task more easily.

standard vise pliers in a workshop
Got an old pair of locking pliers you're looking to replace?Mark Hessling/unsplash

Locking pliers, called vise grips by many users, tightly grip whatever you need held without you having to apply constant pressure. That frees up both your hands—a distinct advantage on jobs where you seem to need three hands, but don't have a helper. To choose the best locking pliers for your application, consider jaw style, versatility and the release mechanism.

Jaw Style

Irwin Tools VISE-GRIP GrooveLock Pliers Set
The less-rounded jaw of this model is designed to make gripping easier in somewhat tight places.Irwin Tools

Locking pliers come in multiple jaw configurations, and each has different applications. Curved jaws are best for tightening, clamping and turning round objects. Straight jaws are designed for more universal use. Round-nosed pliers are best for gripping an item that is easy to reach, while pointed-nose models enable you to get a good grip in smaller areas. Make sure whichever jaw style you choose has hardened steel teeth to hold up to the abuse you'll likely dish out.

Versatility

5 Pack Set Locking Pliers Set
For versatility, this set offers five different sizes and configurations.Fstop Labs

Many manufacturers offer specialty locking pliers, ranging from long, curved jaws for extremely tight spaces, to models with built-in wire strippers, to models that are large, lockable C-clamps. Some even offer swivel tips, while others have multi-tools built into the grips. Many makers even sell sets of the tools, giving you the option of which size or shape pliers to use depending on your task. Sets give you more versatility.

Release Mechanism

WORKPRO 3-piece Locking Pliers Set
Release this model by simply flipping the lever on the bottom grip.WORKPRO

If you've ever smashed your finger or pinched your hand releasing a pair of vise grips, you know why this factor made our list. With a rapid-release lever, you'll be able to unclamp your pliers without fear of injury. Steer clear of pliers that are released by squeezing the grips further, as sometimes they are nearly impossible to break loose. A good, one-touch release lever is your best bet.